Thursday, February 11, 2010

GET THERE - Our answer to Portland North

Well, for those of you who may be following this blog - I just found it again. Seems google changed the way to log in and for the life of me I could not figure it out. I have plenty of patience when it comes to riding a train. But none when it comes to technology....

THE GOOD news . The Maine Rail Transit Coalition is now a Mine registered Not For Profit Corporation. And, today we presented to the City governments of Portland, Lewiston and Auburn a strategic plan for the restoration of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic railway Transportation corridor from Portland's ocean gateway to the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. The next step on the route to Canada and to real rail transit for the commuting population of southern-central Maine.

Next Post I will attached the full report GET THERE: Constructive Transportation for Portland North. But for now, here is the Executive Summary. Thanks to all those who contributed to this excellent report...

GET THERE: Constructive Transportation for PORTLAND NORTH

“. . . to elevate rail transportation to its proper balance in transportation investments, planning and decision-making.”
February 11, 2010
by the Maine Rail Transit Coalition
Executive Summary
"THERE: Constructive Transportation for Portland North" presents a strategy to maximize Maine's response to key opportunities for transit investments north of Portland.

Economic and environmental considerations are driving the U.S. Federal government rapidly back toward rail transportation to move people and goods, and the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) is responding with the statewide Maine State Rail Plan and with the Portland North Project Alternative Modes project study to assess transit alternatives to automobile travel north of the City of Portland.

Maine has impressed the nation with our Downeaster passenger rail success, proving that rail passenger service works in mid-sized metropolitan areas – and that it works in Maine. Thus, the Downeaster rail service will be expanded and further Maine passenger and commuter rail services must be quickly and seriously evaluated. .

The Portland-Auburn region is blessed with rail corridors, some of which have been well maintained and preserved – including the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway (SLR) corridor from downtown Portland all the way to Montreal, Canada – a rail corridor that links Portland with towns to the north over a clean route relatively unencumbered by road crossings and by other rail traffic.

The convergence of these circumstances makes a strong case for re-establishing passenger commuter rail service on the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail line linking the multi-modal downtown Portland transit area at Ocean Gateway/Maine State Pier with Yarmouth Junction and with the Lewiston-Auburn Regional Airport and rail intermodal facility. This in turn creates the base for direct rail transportation linkage with the large metropolitan market area to the north – Montreal.

This rail development will serve the need for a Portland North commuter transit alternative while simultaneously laying the groundwork for further SLR service enhancement for the passengers, freight and economy of the 3-county region – Cumberland, Androscoggin and Oxford.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) “Small Starts” funding is appropriate and potentially available for this development. Under new federal administration, Small Starts funding criteria shifted away from simply short-term cost effectiveness and toward long-term environmental protection, economic development and congestion relief. The SLR opportunity now becomes very compelling based on service quality to commuters, operational economics and safety, environmental considerations, economic development opportunities and the very significant issue of transportation linkage between Maine's two largest economic and population areas – Portland and Lewiston-Auburn.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - 1 Background and Objectives
The State of Maine has achieved widely recognized success investing in railway corridors and rail services including the Downeaster service, procurement and maintenance of railways, plus planned future rail investments in Southern and Central Maine to advance freight, passenger and commuter transportation service at the metro area, statewide and regional levels including connections to Canada.

Maine's success with rail makes Maine people, communities, state government and federal agencies supportive of further rail development progress in Maine.

The best opportunities to further rail progress are being clarified now through two rail planning initiatives:
* The Maine State Rail Plan to prioritize railway corridors for investments, and
* The Portland North Alternative Modes Project study, a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) analysis of commuter transit alternatives to alleviate congestion on highways north of Portland that deals with alternatives for moving people in and out of Portland.

This Maine Rail Transit Coalition's report summarizes how the combined objectives of the Portland North Project, the State Rail Plan, plus sustainable economic develop objectives of three counties (Oxford, Androscoggin and Cumberland), are strongly and perhaps best served by focusing on commuter rail service for the Portland-Yarmouth-Auburn SLR corridor.

Upgrading this Railway Transportation Corridor for passenger service at reasonable speeds gets the region to the commuter service future envisioned by the Portland North Project and at the same time positions Maine for Boston-Portland-Auburn/Lewiston-Montreal rail service– a very valuable linkage of 4 urban areas plus Maine's Oxford County important recreational regions.

The SLR route provides connectivity to the Downeaster Amtrak service at Yarmouth Junction, to ferry and cruise ship business at the Ocean Gateway Center in downtown Portland and to air transportation and further rail linkages at the Lewiston/Auburn Regional Airport.
Our objective is to add to the Portland North analysis with additional considerations around commuter passenger rail and how transportation, energy and environmental policies impact the real lives of people in a world where gasoline/automobile dependency must diminish.

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